Many of us know the saying, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, or to put it simply, treat people the way you would like to be treated.
63-year-old Mdm Sapiah has been on the receiving end since her husband passed on, and over the last few years, she’s made it her goal to learn to give to others just like how people did for her.
A past recipient of TOUCH Community Services’ Seniors Caring for Seniors (SCS) Programme, Mdm Sapiah received support from befrienders who visited her regularly to check in on her. These befrienders are part of TOUCH’s Active Aging Centre (AAC), TOUCHpoint@Geylang Bahru.
Her own experience with the befrienders ignited a spark for volunteerism in Mdm Sapiah, kickstarting her journey as a befriender.
Mdm Sapiah’s first foray into caregiving was with her husband, who had colon cancer.
“He didn’t want any outside help, so I started working from home more.” She traded regular office hours for half-days to care for him with the help of their son, who was living with them at the time. Together, they took care of her husband for three years, up until his passing in 2021.
From a care recipient to a befriender
When her husband passed away, Mdm Sapiah found herself at loose ends. Their son had moved out and she was feeling lonely. “After his passing, I didn’t have anyone else to talk to or come home to. After caring for someone for so long and having someone to talk to, I was suddenly alone in my home.”
By chance, she met an old friend who invited her to go to TOUCHpoint@Geylang Bahru with her. It was at the AAC that Mdm Sapiah learned about the SCS Programme.
As a recipient of the programme in the beginning, she found herself processing her grief and talking about her feelings with her friend. The care and support she received in her sessions soon motivated her to sign up as a volunteer — this time, helping others who were in similar situations she had been in.
“I know the feelings of loneliness or having no one to talk to, so it was easier for me to connect with other seniors who also felt lonely. And it’s nice to know that they can talk to me if they need to. We can be friends; we don’t have to be alone with our problems.”
Life as a busy befriender
These days, Mdm Sapiah’s schedule is packed, both from her volunteering with the SCS Programme and her personal life.
While her weekends are reserved for friends and family, her weekdays are spent at the AAC, either going out to visit others or joining centre-led activities and exercises. She attends as many activities as she can, building rapport with the people around her and establishing a community within the AAC.
As a befriender, she regularly visits her four “befriendees”, seniors to whom she offers physical, mental and emotional support. On these visits, she provides a listening ear, supporting them the way friends do for each other. At the same time, she encourages seniors to live healthier lives.
Mdm Sapiah says, “When we do our visits, we would encourage our seniors to exercise and eat healthily. We’d also tell them to reach out to TOUCH if they needed help.”
Mdm Sapiah sees being a befriender as a way to give back what she was given – an opportunity to care and be cared for.
“I get a lot from this and others benefit, too. We all win.”